Elevator Pitch: Tylmen, Lloyd Yates’ startup, from vintage ties to AI

  • December 16, 2021
  • By Kurt Greenbaum
  • 3 minute read

Everything started with a box of vintage neckties Lloyd Yates sold from his dorm room under the name Tylmen Ties. Five years later, Tylmen has pivoted twice, dropped “ties” from its name and embraced artificial intelligence, 3D modeling and virtual sizing technology. Now, Yates has his sights set on confronting one of the biggest challenges for online apparel retailers: the high rate of returned purchases.

It’s a problem he only began to appreciate as he considered expanding Tylmen’s product line from ties and pocket squares into suits. Body scans and virtual reality, he reasoned, would modernize the experience, letting customers virtually try on the clothes.

“As we were workshopping this, we were learning there was a bigger problem,” said Yates, MBA ’22. “We want to tackle this bigger problem of online retailer returns”—a problem partially caused by ill-fitting purchases.

Consumers spent $650 billion buying apparel online in 2020—the biggest online shopping category. But Yates said consumers are three times more likely to return those items. Some industry estimates put the online apparel return rate as high as 30%, costing retailers nearly $200 billion a year.

As a 19-year-old quarterback-turned-receiver for Northwestern University, he wasn’t seeing that far into the future when his father gifted him an old box of vintage neckties that he sold to classmates on campus—60 in his first week. Soon, he was selling ties and men’s fashion accessories online, based on his own designs. He landed Northwestern as a client in 2017. The work was a legacy to his great grandfather, James Andrew Keyes, a Rock Island railroad porter, who instilled in those around him an appreciation for impeccable fashion.

When the coronavirus pandemic erupted, Yates pivoted into producing facemasks that doubled as pocket squares and reaped a heap of publicity in the process. Now the second-year MBA student credits his professors for challenging him to look deeper—beyond selling suits out of an electric sprinter van—as he pivots toward a fashion technology platform.

“We’re developing a marketplace for customers and apparel brands to connect over common sizing using virtual sizing technology. Every time a customer shops with us, they automatically get paired with clothing items that fit them best,” Yates said. “This results in confident online shoppers who receive style recommendations from all sorts of brands that fit them, while retailers acquire new customers and reduce returns. It’s a win-win for everyone.” Think of it as an online mall that saves your sizing information and only recommends apparel in stock, that fits you great.

In early fall, Tylmen was in the development phase of a new app that would let consumers take a recorded video, get their measurements, and begin to generate custom recommendations. The company is planning to launch before the holiday season to assist shoppers and retailers with 50-plus brands on the platform.

“The endgame is to be the No. 1 platform to take shopping into the digital age,” Yates said. “We want to perfect how consumers shop, giving them the utmost confidence that they’ll get clothing that fits you and looks great.”

Startup Stats

  • Established, 2016
  • First sales, 2016
  • Incorporated as LLC, April 28, 2017

Team Members

Lloyd Yates, MBA ’22, founder and sole employee


  • $5,000, Weston Career Center entrepreneurship grant
  • $1,000, Holekamp Seed Fund
  • $250, Big IDEA Bounce, runner-up

More information


About the Author

Kurt Greenbaum

Kurt Greenbaum

As communications director for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to find and share great stories about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I've worked for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management as communications director and as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sun-Sentinel in South Florida and the Chicago Tribune.

Contact Us

For assistance in finding faculty experts, please contact Washington University Public Affairs.

Monday–Friday, 8:30 to 5 p.m.

Sara Savat, Senior News Director, Business and Social Sciences


Kurt Greenbaum,
Communications Director

Twitter: WUSTLnews